After suffering a mouth laceration that required eight stitches late in Friday’s victory over Denver, Kawhi Leonard is questionable to play in the Clippers’ official home opener at 12:30 p.m. Sunday against the Dallas Mavericks at Staples Center.

The four-time All-Star left the court and headed to the locker room with 6:07 left in the Christmas rematch against the Nuggets. He was bleeding heavily from his mouth after being elbowed violently by the Clippers’ 7-foot center Serge Ibaka, who accidentally hit Leonard on a rebound attempt.

Paul George expressed relief following Friday’s 121-108 victory that Leonard didn’t sustain an even worse injury.

“Really worried. I was thinking of the worst,” George said. “I didn’t know if he was concussed or how hard of a hit or what actually happened because I didn’t see it. I just saw him laying on the ground. That was first and foremost, just making sure he was OK.”

Nicolas Batum agreed with George’s initial assessment of the situation.

“Kind of scary at the moment,” said Batum, who also noted that he’d just seen Leonard in the locker room and “he was OK.”

Leonard finished with 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting in 31 minutes. He also had five rebounds, seven assists and four steals in the victory — which the 2-0 Clippers secured after he left the game to receive treatment, showing resolve that could be a boost for a new-look squad and its new coaching staff.

“They made a run and we lost Kawhi so we could maybe (have) lost our composure and lost our game, but we took a good timeout, we ran some good plays,” said forward Nicolas Batum, noting that even with the pressure on, the Clippers were able to strict to the script and keep the ball moving and keep setting the solid screens that led to big shots such as Patrick Beverley’s 3-pointer with 2:24 to go, which pushed the lead back to 14 points.

“That was, I think, the biggest shot for us in the fourth quarter,” Batum said. “That was big and showed the type of team we can be this year.”

Also on the injury report: Marcus Morris Sr., who remains out with right knee soreness.

KEEP COOL, CARRY ON

Contemplating the Clippers’ composure in holding off the Lakers’ rally in the season opener, head coach Tyronn Lue spotted an opportunity to compliment his new colleagues.

“They didn’t panic,” Lue said of his players, noting that nobody the huddle was arguing or anxious about the situation — including, importantly, his fellow coaches.

“I think I owe a lot to the coaching staff, I think all of our coaches on the coaching staff were very poised, we didn’t get rattled. Just seeing Kenny (Atkinson) and Dan Craig and Chauncey (Billups) and Larry Drew and Roy Rogers and (Brendan) O’Connor, Jeremy (Castleberry), everyone just stayed poised and I think our players saw that.

“I think when you’re being frantic and you’re up and down, they kind of see that. So it was very important for us to keep our cool, and then the players did the same thing as well.”

After the Clippers withstood another run Friday by last season’s other Western Conference finalist, Batum said the Clippers’ experienced coaching staff — including Lue — certainly have helped keep things under control.

“It’s huge,” said Batum after the victory, in which Denver whittled a 24-point lead to 11 but could get no closer. “The staff we have is amazing. Ty Lue’s a champion, he’s been there. I know all the coaches we have, they have multiple experiences at the highest level, so as a player, you know we have so many guys that (have) been around and they know.”

As much focus as there is on the Clippers’ on-court chemistry, Lue’s newly constructed supporting cast — an accomplished bunch — has to come together too.

Kenny Atkinson was a head coach in Brooklyn. Dan Craig had a long tenure as Erik Spoelstra’s top assistant in Miami, and reportedly was a candidate to fill head coaching vacancies with Chicago and Indiana. Larry Drew coached under Lue in Cleveland and took over head coaching duties after Lue was excused six games in the 2018-19 season. Chauncey Billups is a coaching neophyte, but his basketball IQ is unquestioned after 17 seasons playing in the NBA.

Lue was an NBA point guard for 11 seasons, and a two-time NBA champion with the Lakers before he took the head coaching reins in Cleveland and led the Cavaliers to three consecutive NBA Finals appearances and their franchise’s first championship.

During his tenure there, LeBron James said his favorite thing about Lue was “his level of calmness, no matter what’s going on.”

Now Lue said he recognizes that cool disposition on this Clippers’ bench and suggested that it’s borne, in part, from preparation, noting specifically Atkinson’s penchant for putting in hours.

“They all have a great demeanor on the sideline,” Lue said. “But also they all work hard. Just seeing Kenny Atkinson — who’s an ex-head coach, who did a great job in Brooklyn — just seeing him come to the gym every morning at 6 or 6:30 and leave at 5 or 6 o’clock at night, and then how he runs that player development show, is just unbelievable.”

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By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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